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Grad School Fantasies December 12, 2008

Posted by Jennifer in : books , trackback

On Chess Life Online, I just posted an essay on Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers: The Story of Success I finally got a chance to voice my dissatisfaction with my birthday, December 31. As I elaborate on in the article, it prevented me from playing an extra year in World Youth Chess competitions. Now that I’m long ineligible for such events, I’m still annoyed by the birthday. I prefer partying on December 30 or January 1 to December 31. Too many crazy drunks on NYE and the prices for dinner, drinks, entry fees are inflated. This year, I’m going to dance my ass off at the Gogol Bordello and West Philadelphia Orchestra show, so I’m leaving my mind open: Maybe 2008 will be the year that everything changes and I learn to love the countdown.

Writing this review also reminded me how I miss the process of writing longer pieces, like Chess Bitch, or even college term-papers. One particularly memorable research experience was three years ago in the dead of winter when I visited the Cleveland Library, which has the largest chess book collection in the world. There I discovered a book by Sonja Graf, a woman’s chess professional and  rival of 7-time Women’s World Champion Vera Menchik. Sonja had a whirlwind of a life, residing in three different continents and pursuing love affairs with both genders. She also denounced the Nazis, and was lucky enough to find herself in Buenos Aires in the fall of 1939. Luckily, I studied Latin American literature in college so I was able to read Graf’s books, which were written in Spanish. I dived into the mostly forgotten books, written in a wild, passionate style, and I was so thrilled to uncover them that I felt as though I’d discovered the Dead Sea Scrolls! Later Sonja Graf co-starred in the second chapter of Chess Bitch, "War-Torn Pioneers." 

In the case of my Outliers Review, I acquired data on champion youth player birthdays, which are not available to the public anymore because of tightened anti-predatory laws. I wanted the birthdays to test whether a theory espoused in Gladwell’s book, the "Matthew Effect" would also hold true in chess. The Matthew Effect asserts that an age cut-off in sports will create a glut of athletes born just after the cut-off. I was really surprised to see that in a modest sample of 715 birthdays, the data was also tapered, with January being the most frequent month and December the least.

Finding and analyzing new sources makes me fantasize about going back to school, but I’m not even sure what for: Economics, Literature, Media Studies, Gender Studies, Art? My lack of focus is not the only reason I resist grad school- I’ve come to value public opinion. The writing I learned at NYU was based more on how to appeal to a professor rather than a typical reader. College was enormously helpful for my writing and thinking, but I have mixed feelings about ever returning.



1. Carlo - December 12, 2008

Well, your writing sucks so I’d stay away from college if I were you.

2. sam - December 12, 2008

love your writing, great article.

3. ted - December 12, 2008

love your blog

4. Slawomir - December 13, 2008

I like your writing and your blog as it gives me a window into a lifestyle that I envy. By the way, I’ve discovered a new vodka that trumps Grey Goose; Imperia from St Petersburg. Try it on NYE.

5. Chuck Jaeger - January 4, 2009

Love reading you. I particularly like the combination of insightful analysis along with the interesting and enlightening real life context that you provide in your writing. It creates interest for wood-pushers like me. Your review reminded me how the nature of streams of logic we apply via spatial relationships vary from the mind numbing speed of computers which calculate seeming gazillions of possible variations.
It must be interesting making New Year’s resolutions and birthday wishes so close together. Do they ever intermingle? Best of luck in your new year.. hope your birthday was a happy one..
Are autographed hardcover versions of your book “Chess Bitch obtainable (sorry I haven’t read it yet).
Chuck Jaeger, wood-pusher (Life 1475)

6. Chuck Jaeger - January 10, 2009

Received “Chess Bitch” from USCF Sales today via UPS and just started reading it. It’s hard to put down (love it). Perhaps psychology with philosophy, gender studies and art as another medium for expressing it all might be interesting courses for your post-graduate studies (I can imagine you teaching some of them) should you decide to return to school. Your writing style is excellent (unlike my own often rambling and sometimes pretentious verbosity. Sometimes I wonder whether some chess players retreat into the world of 64 squares rather than deal with their own emotions and reality. I seem to recall reading an anecdote about Nimzovich (sp?) had some emotional issues after a loss, and the first comment by Carlo causes me to think someone could stand to do some assisted introspective cogitation with a therapist to help discern whether they might have an inferiority complex or suppressed resentments. Non-sequiturs aside, I think your literary skills are superb. :-)

7. C-Rex - January 11, 2009

Hey Jenn, it’s a new month, we need a new post :)

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